Sunday, April 3, 2011


What about our Jewish friends? There are evangelicals (not all, but some of the more extreme dispensationalists), liberal Christians, and even Catholics, who seem to believe that the way to salvation for Jewish people is – according to God’s plan – different to that which has been given for the rest of us. This has always troubled me. So, because today is Mothering Sunday, I reproduce here some relevant thoughts form the indefatigable Fr John Hunwicke. You can go to his blog HERE.

So people are busy fishing out rose vestments for 'Mothering Sunday'; although I'm unclear why next Lord's Day is so observed by those who do not follow either the Tridentine Rite or the Prayer Book. The theme of the old Roman Mass is (Galatians 4) of our Mother the heavenly Jerusalem; but in the modern rite, the Roman Pontiff is not instructed to have a statio at the basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem (the church which the Empress Helena, my Colcestrian concivis, devised to be 'Jerusalem in Rome' and to which she imported cartloads of soil from Jerusalem together with significant relics of the Crucifixion). Sadly, moreover, choirs are rarely required to sing all those lovely Siony texts which embellish the old propers. Common Worship, of course slavishly follows the modern Roman Rite in abandoning the theme of the Heavenly Jerusalem, our Mother; the City whose politeuma we enjoy. [Does the Byzantine Rite visit this theme in the course of its annual lectionary?]

Of course, those old propers and S Paul's teaching in Galatians 4 raise in an acute form the very problem involved in the Good Friday prayers for the Jews. Has God's Covenant with the Jews been superseded? Do they need to take Christ on board to be saved, or are they, alone of all races and peoples, allowed a Christless way to salvation? It seems to me clear that S Paul teaches throughout Romans that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile either in the problem - sin - or in the solution - faith in Christ. The 'Jews-are-allowed-to-remain-Christless' line rests upon an interpretation of Romans 11 which doesn't hold water; I recall that the founder of the late twentieth century New Line on S Paul, Ed Sanders, concluded that, qua exegete of Paul, he had to to argue that in Paul's view Jews as well as Gentiles needed Christ (although qua liberal he did not think that Paul's view was now plausible).

So: 'cast out the bondwoman and her son'; Jews both need and are entitled to Christ. The Old Covenant was the type, the shadow, of the reality which is Christ. Not, of couse, that it would be particularly seemly somehow to to seem to single out Jews for mission in a Western society which largely consists of lapsed Christians: it would seem as if we were saying 'We've made a hash of hanging onto our own people so now we're going to try to get our hands on yours'. But the principle needs maintaining; all have sinned and all need Christ.

I have sometimes wondered if the Holy Father had in his mind, when revising the EF Good Friday Prayer for the Jews, that his own ordaining bishop, Cardinal von Faulhaber, was a member of the group Amici Israel, which proposed revision in the 1920s. (I seem to recall that the iffy figure of Merry del Val may have been among those who scuppered the proposal.) But I am not convinced that, in its essence, the original Good Friday Bidding (Let us pray for the unbelieving Jews) was anti-semitic - on the contrary. There have always been Christian Jews and they are as fully privileged as any other Christians ... if not more so. In the Good Friday prayer we were not disdainfully and in a racist way praying against the Jews as a race but for those members of that race who do not believe. The reason why we prayed for them specifically (and not, e.g., for the Fijians by name) was simply their special place in God's dealings with Man and the steady New Testament witness, echoed in Pope Benedict's revised prayer, that the Eschaton will mean the combined redemption of Jew as well as Gentile. There is also, as S Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 10, a sharp reminder for all of us in the fact that the great majority of Jewry, for whom first the Euangelium was intended, failed to hear God's call.


Alice C. Linsley said...

In the Byzantine rite Mother Church is honored on the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

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